Farquhar For Sale: Hale County ranch proceeds used for capitol improvement

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 12, 2007

MONTGOMERY &8212; Gov. Bob Riley and Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner Richard Allen announced that the state would auction off five properties, including the Farquhar State Cattle Ranch outside of Greensboro, to fund capitol projects for the department.

Both Riley and Allen said the land sales, along with bringing inmates back from private facilities in Louisiana and putting more inmates in work programs, will allow the department to generate money to cover code upgrades, maintenance and capitol improvements at state department of correction facilities that will cost in excess of $90 million. The improvements will be done over a period of several years, said Allen, and the funds generated through land sales will cover the cost of the first year.

The properties listed by the governor&8217;s press office as being put up for sale are: 1,851 acres of the 2,215 acres at Red Eagle Honor Farm in Montgomery, the remaining 3,869 acres of the Farquhar State Cattle Ranch, an empty and unused 16,000-square foot building on South Union Street in Montgomery, 32 acres in Wetumpka on Highway 231 North and 10 acres at the old Kilby prison in Montgomery.

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Preliminary estimates by the Department of Corrections list the total income generated by the land sales to run between $16.33 and $23.87 million, with the value of the Farquhar ranch estimated between $9.29 and $12.38 million for the remaining 3,869 acres.

The Governor&8217;s office said the Farquhar State Cattle Ranch, for instance, has lost approximately $377,000 during the past two fiscal years and has lost almost $60,000 in the first six months of the current fiscal year. A report from the Department of Corrections shows that the annual gross revenue for the five operating state farms, from 2004-2007, brought in $2.32 million and the annual expenses for the farms were $2.68 million, leaving a $370,000 average annual cost for the farms after revenues offset expense.

Allen said that the department could eventually, several years down the road, get a profit of $100,000 to $150,000 out of the ranch by investing $300,000 to $400,000 in the property. When asked if bringing the current facilities up to grade at the Farquhar ranch and bringing in more inmates to increase production could make the ranch a viable revenue source for the department, Allen said the time it would take to do so would exacerbate existing problems the property sales are meant to remedy.